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ILM Suits Up for Iron Man

Industrial Light & Magic touted its work on IRON MAN at a recent press event in conjunction with today's DVD and Blu-ray release from Paramount Home Ent. Ben Snow (vfx supervisor), Hal Hickel (animation director) and Aaron McBride (vfx art director) were on hand to demo and discuss their work.

Snow explained that ILM uncharacteristically agreed to do a test in 2006 along with a few other contending studios in the U.K and Canada. This was basically because director Jon Favreau is such a CG skeptic and Snow and overall vfx supervisor John Nelson wanted to make Favreau comfortable with a CG approach in keeping with his realistic vision.

So ILM took advantage of its Imocap technology from the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, and proceeded to win the job with its one-minute clip.

"Jon has an improvisational style that was exciting," Snow suggested. "It gave us the potential to come up with more creative ideas."

McBride, who was responsible for the design of the impressive CG suit, added that ILM went about "validating fantastical elements as well as real world cues" from mechanical and military technology. They went for a more photorealistic look in keeping with automotive or tank assembly lines "to demonstrate the strength and density of the material."

Hickel, meanwhile, described how they used Imocap differently on IRON MAN (in conjunction with keyframe animation). "Imocap was more precise [in terms of] the accuracy of tracking a lower set profile," he said. This was in order to make the visible parts of Robert Downey Jr. match with the CG parts of Iron Man. "We didn't rely as much on witness cameras... and sometimes just tracked with the film camera."

Hickel also discussed solving the motion issue with the suit using various cheats by the creature dev team. They also filled in plates and armpits. IRON MAN definitely provided a "flying, fighting and cool factor for animation."

For fighting, they naturally looked for the Marvel moment in a superhero pose. The modelers, riggers and animators worked very collaboratively on the suit assembly.

For the upcoming IRON MAN 2 (featuring War Machine), ILM will avoid double shots now that it has laid the groundwork.

See VFXWorld editor, Bill Desowitz, in the Iron Man suit here.

--Story By VFXWorld Editor Bill Desowitz

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Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.